Whether you’re an LA local or coming in from out of town, the LA Metro system can be intimidating. It also, for some reason, has a subpar reputation: most people are surprised we even have one, and those that know (wrongly) suspect it’s either dangerous or useless.
But the LA Metro is actually a wonderful option for you this weekend – it’s safe, quick, cheap, and easy. With downtown parking options starting at $30 a day, the $1.75 each way cost on Metro is a gift to WonderCon commuters.
If you’re staying in a hotel that was part of the official WonderCon block, you have shuttle service available between your hotel and the convention center. It’s free!
For the rest of you who will be shuttling yourselves in every morning, we’ll help you figure out your options. Read on!
Driving & Parking
If you’re very far away from public transportation, you’ll need to drive to the Los Angeles Convention Center. Aside from downtown traffic, you’ll face ridiculous parking fees ($30/day or $75/3 day pass) – and that’s if you pre-pay now.
Note that there are games at the Staples Center every day of WonderCon, so traffic will really pick up in the afternoons and parking will be even more difficult (and even more expensive).
http://www.lacclink.com/assets/doc/LACC_Parking_Updated-June-2015.pdfHere’s the official LA Convention Center parking map. Pre-paid permits are valid in the West Hall garage only. The Microsoft Theater’s map of area lots is here. You can also use the ParkingPanda app to see what’s available when you arrive.
Uber and Lyft are popular in the area, but if you live (or your hotel is) too far away, it’ll get costly. Both are still cheaper than a regular taxi.
You can also try the new app Luxe, which basically sends a “valet” to meet you based on your app location. The valet parks your car in a lot further away. When you’re ready to leave, call the valet via the Luxe app and meet them to pick up your car. They say the average hourly rate is about $5. If you use Luxe, be sure you note when they close for the night – if you stay for the Masquerade, late-night gaming, or just for a nightcap at LA Live, you might miss the end of their drop-off window.
You might also consider driving to a Metro park & ride lot and taking Metro from there. Folks from Orange County can use the Blue Line Willow Station; those in the San Fernando Valley or Santa Clarita Valley can use the Red Line North Hollywood Station.
Cosplayers with large costumes or accessories, collectors who plan on buying a lot of stuff, photographers with excess gear, or anyone else with more stuff than they can carry will obviously need to drive directly. In that case, despite the parking costs, save yourself the headache and pre-purchase parking permits.
The Blue and Expo lines of LA’s Metro Rail stop at Pico Station, which is one block from the Convention Center.
It’s a short walk: if you can’t handle walking from Pico Station to the Convention Center, you can’t handle walking around WonderCon all day. (Wheelchair users and mobility-impaired attendees excepted, of course – although Metro Rail trains and stations are accessible.)
It’s $1.75 each way, including free transfers between rail lines. Don’t bother buying a day pass: if you’re only using Metro Rail, it’s cheaper to just put $3.50 on your card for the day. Two kids under 5 ride free with a paying adult. You will need to buy a TAP card for $1 if you’ve never ridden before.
Ticketing: TAP Cards
Ticketing on Metro Rail is done via TAP cards, which are equipped with RFID chips just like your WonderCon Badge. Buy a TAP card for $1 (the card is reusable). When you buy the TAP card, the machine will give you the card and then ask you to tap the card to the ticket machine to load value.
You also need to tap the card again on one of the fare boxes on the platform or at a turnstile to activate the card for your trip. You simply tap your TAP card to the blue circle that says “TAP here” on the fare box. It will beep and the screen will show your remaining fare.
Some Metro stations don’t have turnstiles – Pico Station, for example, only has an unlocked gate. To pay your fare at these stations, just walk onto the platform and tap your card on the blue “tap here” circle atop one of the silver fare box posts.
It’s pretty simple, but if you’re confused (or just need reassurance!) here’s a video from Metro on buying TAP cards and tapping them to activate your fare.
How to Get to Pico Station
Use the Metro Trip Planner to find the closest station to you and the easiest route. If you don’t want to take any busses, make sure you select “Use Rail Only.”
Make sure you look up your return trip as well: most lines run late on Friday and Saturday but if you decide to grab a few drinks Sunday night, you’ll want to be sure you can still make your last train.
Basically, you need to take the Blue or Expo lines to Pico Station. The Blue & Expo lines share a track in this area. (The Purple & Red lines also share a track in some areas, which is why you have the option of taking either train in some cases.) It’s possible to walk from the 7th Street/Metro Center stop at 7th Street and Flower Street, but you can also transfer for free and head one stop further down to Pico.
You can connect to the Blue or Expo lines from any other Metro Rail line (and transfers are free). You can see all the rail line maps and timetables here, but below are the basics:
Blue Line: Blue to Pico. Take any Los Angeles bound train to Pico Station.
Expo Line: Expo to Pico. Take any Los Angeles bound train to Pico Station.
Green Line: Green to Blue to Pico. From the west, take any Norwalk bound train to Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station. From the east, take any Redondo Beach bound train to Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station. At Willowbrook/Rosa Parks, change to a Los Angeles bound Blue Line train. Take the Blue Line to Pico Station.
Red Line: Red to Blue/Expo to Pico. Take any Union Station bound train to 7th Street/Metro Center. Change to a Blue Line (bound for Long Beach) or Expo Line (bound for Culver City) train. Take the Blue Line or Expo Line train one stop to Pico Station. (You can also take the free WonderCon shuttle from the Sheraton Los Angeles Downtown to the Convention Center, which picks up in front of the Sheraton at Hope & 7th, one block down from the 7th Street Metro Center.)
Purple Line: Purple to Blue/Expo to Pico. Take any Union Station bound train to 7th Street/Metro Center. Change to a Blue Line (bound for Long Beach) or Expo Line (bound for Culver City) train. Take the Blue Line or Expo Line train one stop to Pico Station. (You can also take the free WonderCon shuttle from the Sheraton Los Angeles Downtown to the Convention Center, which picks up in front of the Sheraton at Hope & 7th, one block down from the 7th Street Metro Center.)
Gold Line: Gold to Red/Purple to Blue/Expo to Pico. Take any Union Station bound train to Union Station. Change to a Red Line (bound for North Hollywood) or Purple Line (bound for Wilshire/Western) train. Take the Red Line or Purple Line to 7th Street Metro Center. Change to a Blue Line (bound for Long Beach) or Expo Line (bound for Culver City) train. Take the Blue Line or Expo Line train one stop to Pico Station. (This is the most complicated one!)
Silver & Orange Lines: These are busways. They are more express than regular local Metro busses and will allow you to transfer to Metro rail lines; however, they’re not a train. Don’t be surprised if you show up to a stop and don’t see any tracks or platforms!
Is it safe?
Metro Rail is no more dangerous than public transit in any other city. Some lines, like the Red Line, cater to tourists and are extra nice. The Blue Line caters to commuters and stops in some underserved neighborhoods and is not quite as nice. However, being on the train in these areas is just fine.
On a personal note, I’m a petite woman usually traveling alone and I’ve taken the entirety of the Blue Lines and Red Lines on many occasions at all hours of the day and night without any trouble.
Metrolink is really intended for 9-5 commuters, and their service hours reflect that. However, they do operate on the weekends, so if you’re planning on a shorter day it might be a good option for you. Metrolink routes extend further out than Metro rail routes, so check their map to see if it works for you.
Metrolink trains run to Union Station, where you can connect with the Red Line or Purple Line. Take a North Hollywood bound train to the 7th Street/Metro Center station, where you can change to a Blue or Expo line train. Take the Blue or Expo Line to Pico Station.
If you’re coming in from San Diego or Santa Barbara, you could take Amtrak into LA and save yourself the traffic. Amtrak will take you to Union Station in LA, where you can connect with the Red Line or Purple Line. Take a North Hollywood bound train to the 7th Street/Metro Center station, where you can change to a Blue or Expo line train. Take the Blue or Expo Line to Pico Station.
How are you getting to WonderCon this weekend? Let us know in the comments!
Featured photo: “Metro Blue Line / Expo Line” by prayitophotography on Flickr.